Gaining and Losing: James C. Dahlman and William Howard Taft

Mayor James “Cowboy Jim” Dahlman of Omaha

Mayor James “Cowboy Jim” Dahlman of Omaha

James C. Dahlman, the colorful “perpetual mayor of Omaha,” made a jovial offer to President William Howard Taft prior to Taft’s brief visit to Omaha in September of 1909. Mayor Dahlman, said the Omaha Daily News of August 14, wanted to gain weight, while Taft, who weighed more than three hundred pounds during his White House years, was trying to lose it.  

The Daily News said: “There is a difference of nearly 200 pounds between the weights of the president and mayor of Omaha. What one is so anxiously trying to rid himself of, the other is hopefully trying to acquire.” Doubtless as a publicity stunt, Dahlman sent Taft a letter that was also shared with the Omaha press, including the News, asking for “some pointers as to how to get fat,” and offering in return to share tips on “how to get lean.”  

Read about the President’s good-natured reaction to Dahlman’s offer in a Timeline column on the Nebraska State Historical Society’s website. Microfilmed scrapbooks and reminiscences relating to Dahlman’s colorful life and career are in the Historical Society’s Archives. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor for Research and Publications

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